Russian lawsuits against Azov fighters could violate Geneva conventions | Russia


Any Russian move to pursue and possibly execute some of the hundreds of Ukrainian fighters who surrendered in Mariupol could violate the Geneva conventions, which state that prisoners of war should not be punished for taking part in hostilities.

The concerns were underlined by Britain’s Armed Forces Minister James Heappey, who told LBC radio station: ‘I think there have been enough atrocities already in this war without seeing the execution or what whether it’s prisoners of war, which I’m afraid is a prelude to. I just think we need to be very clear, this kind of atrocity that the west would totally condemn. POWs have a listed status in the Geneva Convention.

Among those who have called for the prosecution of fighters who left the sprawling Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol is pro-Russian Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin, who said on Wednesday a court would decide their fate.

The Geneva Conventions include four treaties and three protocols establishing international legal standards for humanitarian treatment during wars. The single-term Geneva Convention generally refers to agreements negotiated in 1949 after World War II.

The 1949 convention states that prisoners of war should not be prosecuted for their direct participation in hostilities and specifies that detention after capture should not be considered as a form of punishment but as a means of preventing further participation in the conflict. .

The only exception allowed is that the detaining power may prosecute prisoners for possible war crimes. One of the justifications given by Russia for its war of aggression against Ukraine was that members of the Azov regiment in Mariupol were responsible for war crimes.

At the start of the battle for the port city, Russian defense spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov claimed: “It was those Nazis from the Azov Battalion who exterminated the civilian population in the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, deliberately and with exceptional cruelty, for eight years”.

Concerns about the potential fate of some of the Ukrainian soldiers have been raised after Russian officials threatened to treat them as “terrorists” rather than fighters.

Although Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, promised that surrendering fighters would be treated “in accordance with international standards”, this was immediately undermined by statements by other Russian officials.

“Nazi criminals should not be exchanged,” State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said in a speech on Tuesday, referring to Ukrainian offers to exchange prisoners. “Our country treats those who have surrendered or been captured humanely. But vis-à-vis the Nazis, our position must remain unchanged: they are war criminals and we must do everything to bring them to justice.

Russia’s Justice Ministry on Tuesday appealed to the Supreme Court to declare the Azov regiment a terrorist organization, possibly introducing another hurdle to a potential swap.

Azov has been a key part of the Russian propaganda narrative about the war in Ukraine, which was originally launched with the supposed aim of “denazification”. It was formed in 2014 as a volunteer militia to fight Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine, and many of its original members held far-right extremist views. Since then, the unit has been integrated into Ukraine’s national guard and its commanders say it has moved away from its far-right origins.

Both parties to the conflict have been accused of violations of the Geneva Conventions in their treatment of prisoners. Matilda Bogner, head of the UN human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, said there was “credible information” about the mistreatment of prisoners.

“We have received credible reports of torture, ill-treatment and incommunicado detention by the Ukrainian Armed Forces of prisoners of war belonging to the Russian Armed Forces and affiliated armed groups,” Bogner said. Soldiers were “forced to make statements, apologies and confessions, and [subjected to] other forms of humiliation,” she said.


Comments are closed.